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Obama lauds Mali for 'credible' elections a year after coup

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday congratulated Mali on holding "peaceful, inclusive and credible" elections earlier this month, a key step toward resuming aid to the war-torn West African nation.

The United States suspended aid to Mali in April 2012, following a coup that was prompted by an uprising by Islamists and Tuareg separatists.

Mali's constitutional Court on Tuesday confirmed Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won Mali's presidential election with 78 percent of the vote. Keita is expected to be sworn in by Mali's supreme court on September 4.

The United States can begin the process of lifting restrictions on aid once the new government is formally in place next month.

"Through the interim government's management of a peaceful, inclusive, and credible electoral process, and with the extraordinary turnout of the Malian people, this election has helped restore Mali's democratic tradition," Obama said in a statement.

"We look forward to working closely with the new government to broaden and deepen the ties between our two nations," Obama said, urging further progress on advancing democracy and security in the country.

Once portrayed as a model democracy, Mali imploded when a military junta, frustrated by a lack of progress in tackling a Tuareg rebellion in the north, toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012.

The Tuareg rebels and their Islamist allies seized upon the turmoil in the capital Bamako to launch a rapid advance, capturing two-thirds of the country.

The al Qaeda-linked fighters were finally defeated following the intervention of thousands of French soldiers in January.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako, Mali; Editing by Bill Trott)

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